Food, Diet, and Cancer
You could spend the next year reading about food and cancer risk/prevention and be no better informed next June than you are right now. There is a huge amount of conflicting information, unknowns, and advice ranging from sensible to totally whacko. The bottom line is that there is no real data to support any particular diet guidelines beyond the usual advice about fruits and vegetables, lowering fat intake, and limiting red meat. This is a thoughtful article from Nature.com. I give you the beginning and then a link:
The omnivore's labyrinth
Finding the right food to help reduce our chances of cancer can be a maze. But ongoing studies and a little inventive cooking might point us in the right direction.
BY SARAH DEWEERDT
Twenty years ago, Paul Talalay was looking for new ways to prevent cancer, so he went grocery shopping. As a result of his trip to the supermarket, the Johns Hopkins pharmacologist and molecular scientist discovered sulforaphane, a compound contained in certain leafy vegetables. In a simple assay using mouse cells, Talalay and colleagues showed that sulforaphane dramatically boosts the activity of certain phase II enzymes, which form part of the body's cancer-fighting machinery1. Later, they demonstrated sulforaphane's capacity to prevent tumour growth in rats exposed to a carcinogen2.
The rest of us haven't been so fortunate with our anticancer shopping basket. Despite much research over the past 40 years, it's still not clear what to eat — or not eat —to help prevent cancer. Promising initial findings have often turned into statistical dead ends, leaving us culinarily confused.
In the mid-1970s, epidemiological studies suggested that people who ate more fruits and vegetables were at lower risk of several cancers3. Such findings led to public health efforts to get people to eat more fresh produce. In both the United States and the United Kingdom, for example, official dietary recommendations pushed for everyone to consume five portions of fruit and vegetables each day.
As epidemiologists began to use large-scale, prospective studies — a more powerful type of investigation — they frequently found weak, inconsistent or no links between fruit and vegetable consumption and cancer risk. Last year, University of Oxford epidemiologist Tim Key concluded from nearly three dozen large studies and meta-analyses from the last 20 years that "at least in relatively well-nourished Westernised populations, a general increase in total fruit and vegetable intake will not have a large impact on cancer rates"(ref. 4).